James Arthur Ray denied request to set aside convictions in sweat lodge deaths

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James Arthur Ray - then and now. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) James Arthur Ray - then and now. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)

A victory and a defeat for convicted self- help entrepreneur James Arthur Ray.

A Yavapai County Superior Court judge restored Ray’s civil rights, except his right to carry a gun, but he denied Ray’s request to have his convictions set aside.

[READ MORE: Self-help guru takes next step in long comeback after 2009 sweat lodge deaths]

Ray was convicted of three counts of negligent homicide and sentenced to six years in prison -- two for each victim. A judge allowed the sentences to be served concurrently, meaning Ray would serve two years. He ended up serving 20 months.

Three participants, Kirby Brown, James Shore and Liz Neuman died in 2009 during a sweat lodge ceremony conducted by Ray in Sedona in 2009.

Ray told the judge he wanted his convictions set aside because the international travel restrictions on him were limiting his ability to rebuild his self-help enterprise.

“It will help me in some countries and it will help me in Canada. That's why I’m asking for this,” Ray told Yavapai Superior Court Judge Michael R. Bluff.

[READ MORE: Victims angry at Sedona sweat lodge guru's attempted comeback]

After Ray stated his case a number of family members of the victims addressed the court. Relatives of Shore and Brown attended the hearing coming from Colorado and New York. Relatives of Neuman could not make the trip but entered their strong opposing opinions in writing to Bluff.

Ginny Brown is Kirby’s mother. She scolded Ray for not taking responsibility for his actions which caused the deaths and said it’s evident because Ray continues to refer to the deaths as an accident.

“He's now presented himself as the victim of this tragedy. He's not the victim, he's the architect,” said Brown.

Her husband George said Ray is no guru, he’s a capitalist. He told the court the reason they were all there was because of the elephant in the room and the elephant is money.

He made it clear he believed Ray was trying to get his convictions set aside so he could manipulate the facts about the case, claim he was exonerated and go full force into the self-help industry again.

Virginia Shore, sister of victim James Shore, called Ray a charlatan and a man with delusions of super powers.

“James Ray wants to erase his convictions so he can deceive and endanger others and continue on," said Shore in court.

After hearing from Ray, victims' relatives and attorneys on both sides, Judge Bluff made his ruling against Ray’s request to have his convictions set aside saying these issues usually are done when the felon has had much more time in society after prison, abiding by the laws. 

Outside the courthouse, Ray said, “I totally understand where he’s coming from. I did get the right to vote back and run for office if I choose to do that which I don’t. He said I needed more time so that’s OK.”

When asked how he felt about the victims' relatives believing he should stay out of the self-help genre, Ray replied, “I’m sorry about that and I really am, but it’s what I’m here to do. It would be like saying to someone else who was involved in an accident or in a trauma or in a difficulty that they should change what they do in life and that’s not what I advocate.”

References like that, calling the deaths “an accident,” are what angers the victims' family members the most.

“He’s responsible for what happened in Sedona. He’s not the victim here. So, to paint himself that way is so incredibly egregious to us,” said Ginny Brown.

“I think that he still doesn’t take responsibility for his actions. I think that was clear in his comments. He still refers to it as a tragedy and an accident. I think that says it all,” said Virginia Shore.  

Copyright 2017 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

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